The City of the Sharp-nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt

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9780297645887: The City of the Sharp-nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt

In 1897 two Oxford archaeologists began digging a low sand-covered mound a hundred miles south of Cairo. When they had finally finished, ten years later, they had uncovered 500,000 fragments of papyri. Shipped back to Oxford, the meticulous and scholarly work of deciphering these fragments began. It is still going on today. As well as Christian writings from totally unknown gospels and Greek poems not seen by human eyes since the fall of Rome, there are tax returns, petitions, private letters, sales documents, leases, wills and shopping lists. What they found was the entire life of a flourishing market-town - Oxyrhynchos ( the city of the sharp-nosed fish' ), on a side branch of the Nile - encapsulated in its waste paper. The total lack of rain in this part of Egypt had preserved the papyrus beneath the sand, as nowhere else in the Roman Empire. We hear the voices of barbers, bee-keepers and boat-makers, dyers and donkey-drivers, plasterers and poets, weavers and wine-merchants, set against the great events of late antiquity: the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and the coming of Christianity, as well as the all-important annual flooding of the Nile. The result is an extraordinary and unique picture of everyday life in the Nile Valley between Alexander the Great in 300 BC and the Arab conquest a thousand years later.

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About the Author:

Peter Parsons was Lecturer in Papyrology from 1960 to 1989 and Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford University from 1989 until his retirement in 2003. For many years he was chairman of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project of the British Academy, of which he has been a Fellow since 1977. He lives in Oxford.

Review:

'The story... is a wonderful one, expounded with all the intelligence, humanity, clarity and wit that have ever been the hallmarks of the finest scholarship.' -- Peter Jones LITERARY REVIEW 'Parsons has entertaingly revived a noisy, gossiping world of migrant greeks who lived through the decline of Rome and the rise of Christianity.' -- Iain Finlayson THE TIMES 'a learned and engrossing book' -- Jane Stevenson THE DAILY TELEGRPAH ' a wonderfully rich portrait of the people of Oxyrhynchos' -- Nick Rennison THE SUNDAY TIMES 'Peter Parsons leads his readers on an adventure, peeling back the past and finding that the ancients were in many ways just like us.' THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE 'so rich and so remakable is the detail that a greed for more soon sets in.' -- Tom Holland THE GUARDIAN 'a picture of life in the city in intimate detail, from the profound to the mundane.' THE HERALD 'he brilliantly conveys both the difficulty of working on the material and the excitement of the historical detective involved in the thrill of the chase' -- William Dalrymple THE NEW STATESMAN 'this captivating study.' -- David Barrett CATHOLIC HERALD 'he writes with tremendous verve and wit, and with memorable turns of phrase.' -- Mary Beard THE TLS

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Parsons, Peter
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (2007)
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Parsons, Peter
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (2007)
ISBN 10: 0297645889 ISBN 13: 9780297645887
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